Political correctness is supposed to help us avoid offending people. I don’t generally give a flying fart if I’m offensive. I am not politically correct. I’m sometimes loud. I talk about sex, politics, and religion–often at the dinner table and sometimes when I’m a guest in someone’s home. I swear. I’ve been accused of mocking religion and I laugh at things Bill Mahar says. So when I call out certain talk or behavior, it’s probably not because I’m offended; it’s because I’m genuinely concerned about dangers related to said behavior. I think some of it is downright reckless.
RECKLESS BEHAVIOR #1 — Using sexist language & using “girl” as an insult
When a father tells his son to man up or stop acting like a girl, the trouble is not just the message it sends to his son (being a girl = bad, so don’t be girly), but also what it says to his daughter: that being a girl is simply not as good as being a boy. No matter what she does, she will always have a strike against her through no choice or fault of her own. And she (and her brother) also pick up on the fact that their mother, sister, aunt, and grandmother are inferior to their father and other men. Therefore, it’s not important to listen to their mother or respect her. And they certainly don’t have to respect female teachers, police officers, bosses, or strangers on the street.
I never want to be called the funniest Indian female comedian that exists. I feel like I can go head-to-head with the best white, male comedy writers that are out there. Why would I want to self-categorize myself into a smaller group than I’m able to compete in? –Mindy Kaling
RECKLESS BEHAVIOR #2 — Using racial slurs & making racist jokes
There are rules in comedy about which groups can be picked on. It’s bad form for groups in power to pick on those with less power (but the reverse can be acceptable, often because first group has already created a divide.). Also, only members of certain racial or ethnic groups can say certain terms. (Whether or not anyone should say such things is a different issue altogether). Remember how Michael Scott didn’t get why it’s not okay for him to recite a Chris Rock bit? Luckily, many people do understand the limits even if they’re not sure why they’re in place.
Most of the time, when majority or powerful groups disrespect people outside their group, it mainly serves to demonstrate insecurity and the desire to maintain the upper hand. [Like this example of how white students mocked nonwhites at a 70% white high school.] Even playful uses of terms and jokes are often used to create or maintain someone’s status as The Other. Those People. Us and Them.
Think of times when you’ve heard variations on these ideas:
- They are not like us.
- They only got this far because of affirmative action.
- They aren’t moral.
- They eat weird foods.
- They have weird traditions.
- They don’t share our values.
- They are sluts.
- They are taking our jobs.
- They don’t pay taxes/ They are looking for handouts/ They hate the rich/They blame us for our success.
- They drink too much.
- They are all involved in organized crime.
- They’re lazy/ smelly/ stupid/ oversexed/ dangerous.
Each one of these ideas translates to “I wish to maintain the status quo. If other people are treated better, there might not be as much good stuff for me. I enjoy coasting. I don’t want more competition for the stuff I like and I certainly don’t want to have to work harder.”
RECKLESS BEHAVIOR #3– Using “Muslim” & “terrorist” interchangeably
Radicals in all arenas are just that: radical. They wreck stuff for everyone because of stereotypes, which are seldom born through quiet, mellow people (see below). When Islamophobia is spread, people are unfairly targeted, especially women. Muslim women who cover their hair stand out, sometimes harassed and/or beaten. Shortly after the Boston Marathon, a man repeatedly punched a woman in the back who was walking on a sidewalk in Boston. College students in Texas were beaten while being called “terrorists” and “evil.” A man was beaten in the Bronx on Monday night in front of an Applebee’s. An Applebee’s! What a terrible place to be beaten, and just for having brown skin. (Of course, the fact that the bombers have since been described as “light skinned white men” is beside the point.)
RECKLESS BEHAVIOR #4 Perpetuating stereotypes
Stereotypes are bad for the stereotyped and the stereotyper.
It’s not fair to prejudge someone based on experience with (or hearsay of) someone else with a shared characteristic. Everyone deserves a chance to be treated and known as an individual. This is also why the “One of my closest friends is __________” trope is so grating. People read that as, “I can excuse my own propensity for stereotyping because luckily, I found the one _______ who isn’t ________ that I can pull out as a token on occasions like this.”
Stereotyping is a shortcut, and like all shortcuts, stereotyping often ends up costing much more time than it would take to do something right in the first place. And you know what? Positive stereotypes are just as dangerous. It’s not fair to expect people to live up to imaginary standards.
Homer: Listen, do you want the job done right, or do you want it done fast?
Marge: Well, like all Americans, fast . . .
Imagine all the friends and experiences people miss out on because of assumptions! Conversely, imagine all the bad hiring decisions and dates that have taken place because of assumptions.
I’m just as guilty as the next human. Did I ever tell you about the time I agreed to hang out with a guy who I thought was gay? He was a regular at the place I worked. One cold Minneapolis evening, I was on a date and didn’t know it. So when he invited me up to his apartment to look at his plants, I said yes because I genuinely wanted to see them. This was apparently code: glaringly obvious code. So while I was admiring his orchids and he tried to kiss me, I laughed–mostly at myself because I was surprised by my appallingly inaccurate gaydar. I had plenty of time to think about what I’d done on the long walk back to my car.